Author: Ron Graham
Wisdom and Foolishness
—What Makes One Wise?
The Bible compares the wise with fools. Wisdom and foolishness are among the most important Bible Opposities. We ask the question: what makes you wise? How do you avoid being a fool in God’s eyes?
In the first place, you must ask for wisdom from the right source, and that means asking God in heaven.
1 Wisdom From Above
Of course we can find plenty of wisdom from God in the Bible. If we reject God’s word we will be devoid of real wisdom. “The wise men are put to shame... Behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them?” (Jeremiah 8:9).
Those who respect God’s word, and don't reject it, can also pray for wisdom. So we have two ways of seeking wisdom from above: We can seek it in the scriptures, and we can seek it through prayer...
¶“4 Let perseverance [through trials] finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking at all. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God. He gives generously to all without finding fault, and he will give you the wisdom you ask for. 6But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt. The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That person should expect nothing from the Lord. 8People like that are of two minds, and unstable in all their ways” (James 1:4-8).
God, in his good providence, can always find a way to help us come by the wisdom we need. We pray, and God finds a way.
Now consider this: having got wisdom from God, where are you going to keep this treasure? There's a simple answer to that, isn't there? You must keep it in your heart.
2 Wisdom in Your Heart and Life
“Wisdom resides in the heart of a person of understanding, but it makes itself known even in the midst of fools.” (Proverbs 14:33). If God’s wisdom is made known to fools, why do they remain fools? Because they do not let the wisdom into their hearts. Their hearts reject the wisdom, and instead welcome foolishness which they are pleased to call wisdom.
The following passage about wisdom shows the importance of having God’s wisdom living in your heart, and in your life...
¶“1My son, you should accept my words and store up my commands within you. 2You should turn your ear to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding 3Yes, you should call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding. 4You should look for it as though it were silver. You should search for it as for a hidden treasure. 5Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1-5).
¶“6For the Lord gives wisdom. From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7He holds success in store for the upright. He is a shield to those who walk blamelessly. 8For the Lord guards the path of the just and protects the way of his faithful. 9So then, you will understand what is right and just and fair. [You will choose] every good path.” (Proverbs 2:6-9).
¶“10For wisdom shall enter your heart, and knowledge be pleasant to your soul. 11Discretion shall protect you, and understanding guard you.” (Proverbs 2:10-11).
Notice how the proverb above says, “For wisdom shall enter your heart” (Proverbs 2:10). You must let true wisdom into your heart, to fill your heart. Only then will true wisdom change you, and change your life.
Don't keep wisdom in a cardboard box.
What would be the use of getting wisdom from God, if you just wrote it down and stored it in a cardboard box —then left it to gather dust while you continued to let worldly wisdom fill your heart and guide your life?
Just as God’s wisdom belongs in your heart, of course it also belongs in your daily life. If wisdom is shut away in your heart, never to see the light of day, it might as well be in a dusty cardboard box!
One of the Bible proverbs makes this point: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who put it into practice have a good understanding. [In their way of life] his praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111:10).
Notice that wisdom from God must be put into practice. You can have wisdom in your heart, but it must be evident in your manner of life. James has a clear message about this...
¶“13Who among you is wise and has understanding? You should show it by your good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure. It is also loves peace. It is considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit. It is impartial and sincere. ” (James 3:13-17).
The first two points we have made in this lesson are fairly obvious. However our final point may be less so, although it follows by inference from the first two points. We noticed firstly, that we must do our best to seek true wisdom from God through the scriptures and through prayer. Secondly, we noticed what follows from that: God’s wisdom must fill our hearts and be fully obeyed in our lives. It is this embrace and practice of wisdom that brings us now to consider, thirdly, the cost of wisdom.
3 Wisdom at a Cost
God’s wisdom is a precious commodity. It can be had without money, but it does come at great cost. Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding. (Proverbs 23:23). Notice, that although you ask God for wisdom, there is a sense in which you buy it from him.
In fact, the price of wisdom is the practice of it —simple as that. Wisdom from God may be a gift, but it is given on condition that you devote yourself to it and give wisdom your obedience in daily life. That is wisdom’s cost. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. [In their way of life] his praise endures forever!” (Psalm 111:10).
All the treasure on earth cannot buy true wisdom, because true wisdom comes from God. He isn't interested in your wealth. “For wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her” (Proverbs 8:11).
Don't buy wisdom from the wrong shop.
Some people don't buy wisdom from God. They shop elsewhere, because God requires a deep and full commitment to the wisdom he gives. Some people will prefer the cheap alternative, namely the wisdom of this world.
But Paul warns us against such foolishness...
¶“20Where is the wise one? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1Corinthians 1:20).
¶“6We impart wisdom among the mature —but not a wisdom of this age or its rulers. They are doomed to pass away.” (1Corinthians 2:6).
¶“18Don't deceive yourselves, any of you. If any of you thinks that you are wise in this age, you should become a fool [in the eyes of the world] so that you may become wise. 19For the wisdom of this age is folly with God. For it is written, 'He catches the wise in their craftiness' 20 and again, 'The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.'” (1Corinthians 3:18-20).
The wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. Yet, when we buy wisdom from God, people of the world will think we are foolish! Well, we will just have to put up with that, won't we?.